The magic of mentoring – what makes a successful mentor relationship

Date
Written by
Cordelia Diamond
Illustration by
Travis Constantine

Every month we invite creative professionals to share their thoughts on a topic they care about from the creative world of work. This month, we're hearing from Strategist, Cordelia Diamond at AnalogFolk about their experience becoming a mentor with the Creative Mentor Network and how it helped them gain a sense of fulfilment, purpose, and true inspiration.

I always knew I wanted to be a mentor. Throughout my career, I have relied on advice and guidance from people I respect to help shape my path. Being mentored had a transformative effect on me and I felt a duty to pay it forward. But it was only recently when I finally got my first official mentee that I realised just how life-changing and affirming the experience can be from the other side – as a mentor. The concept of mentorship is exciting: you form a relationship with someone for whom you can make a real difference as they chart their own career path. However, I discovered that mentorship is so much more than just a helping hand. As a mentor, you have the opportunity to grow yourself as you get to know your mentee and work together to achieve goals.

When I joined AnalogFolk this past October, I learned about their ongoing partnership with Creative Mentor Network, an organisation that pairs creative professionals with young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds looking to get into the creative industries. I jumped at the opportunity and found myself mentoring a wonderful, ambitious young woman. We discussed a brilliant array of things that interested her. I shared my own background and experience and together we charted a path to achievement. Working with my mentee has been both rewarding and revealing. I learned many things along the way that helped make our relationship strong and successful, which I’d like to share today for anyone considering a mentor journey.

Six Qualities of a Winning Mentoring Relationship

Setting Clear Expectations

It’s important to set clear expectations on both sides about how your mentor/mentee relationship will work, and what you want out of it. This is especially relevant for younger mentees who have less working experience, as it sets a standard for behaviour in the professional world. I was very open with my mentee about my desire to train my own abilities as a leader and mentor, and that I was hoping to help her establish one of her goals during our time together on the CMN program. She was open with me about her goals, schedule, and ambitions and together we formed a plan that we felt we could stick to.

Consistent Communication and Proper Listening

One of the first things I learned is that communication and listening can make or break a mentee relationship. CMN training taught me about healthy communication habits that ensure mentees feel truly supported and heard. Being consistent, both in time and frequency of your communication, helps establish a relationship of trust. Demonstrating your reliability whilst practising open listening (not always trying to jump in and ‘solve’ things before your mentee has had a chance to express themselves), allows both of you to feel more comfortable and ultimately get at the gritty stuff.

Unpacking the ‘Obvious’

We may assume that a mentee already has a basic understanding of their desired path and is looking for specific advice. But one of the most powerful things we can offer them is not a ready-made model of how to follow our own career path, but the gift of options. By increasing their awareness and knowledgeability about the wider career/industry landscape, mentors can empower mentees to make decisions based on interest rather than proximity. Not everyone has the privilege of growing up in an environment with access to role models across a breadth of careers. Making connections between your mentee and potential role models can be eye-opening.

Learning Through Teaching

As I’m in the earlier stage of my career, I have not yet had the chance to manage someone and I found mentoring to be an amazing way to build my skills. I always relish the opportunity for personal growth, and through my mentoring experience I was able to learn many lessons myself. My mentee’s bright enthusiasm and curiosity led us down many paths where I learned alongside her about the topics and issues she was interested in. I learned how to balance direct guidance and hands-off empowerment when it came to helping her achieve her goals, a skill which is invaluable for a future as a manager and leader.

Being Open To Another Perspective

Mentorship is about learning to expect the unexpected and embrace the learning that can come from seeing the world through another person’s eyes. My mentee and I did not have similar backgrounds, and I found that her unique perspective expanded my own viewpoint and caused me to rethink many of my assumptions about young people and question the status quo. In the same vein, I was able to give her a view into the world of the creative industries and demonstrate a different kind of career and office environment that she did not know existed, and had never considered.

Embracing The Zig-Zag Path

It’s easy as a mentor to stick to what we know when giving guidance. After all, there’s no better feeling than helping a mentee achieve one of their goals. Mentors may look at our own career success and default to our history as a template for achievement. In reality, there is no one ‘right’ way to achieve a goal. What has worked for one person may not work for everyone. I worked together with my mentee to figure out a path to achievement that was authentic to her and reflected her strengths and interests, allowing her to progress on her own terms.

I believe that mentorship is one of the most powerful and important experiences that one can have– as a mentor or as a mentee. If you are willing to give your time and effort to uplift another, the rewards are immense. Not only is mentoring empowering for the young people we work with, but transformative for mentors. I gained a sense of fulfilment, purpose, and true inspiration from my experience working with my mentee and will carry it with me throughout my life and career. I hope that those thinking about mentoring find the information above useful, and get inspired to get involved with a mentee of their own.


Creative Mentor Network is a charity working to make the creative world of work more inclusive to young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Their mentoring programmes do this by providing access to mentors and supporting young people, whilst training those within the creative industries in inclusive leadership and mentoring. To find out more about their work and programmes, visit:
http://www.creativementornetwork.org


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